Building Christ’s Church
I hope you enjoyed having Harold here last week. I have to admit, I missed coming out here to see you. It gave me a chance though to reflect on what we are doing here. What is this whole church thing about? Are we about potlucks? I know that we Baptists like our food. Is the church this building? The church was instituted by the Lord to build each other up; strengthening one and other’s faith in the Lord, and to worship God and to thank Him for His grace and mercy. Is that all? Nope. The church was commissioned for a couple more things. Acts 1:8 says, “but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” We are to go out into the world and spread God’s Word to each and every person we can. We are to be dedicated soul winners for Jesus Christ.
So how do we know if we are building a man centered church or a Christ centered church? For the answer, we need to look at the Book of Acts. I would love to go through all of Acts, because it speaks to the beginning of the fulfillment of the great commission. But, I don’t think you guys want to sit here all day and all night, so let’s look at a couple of things. Please turn with me to Acts chapter 2 and verses 46 and 47. Acts 2:46-47. Luke writes, “And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:46-47) This is what a Christ centered church is about.
First, we are to continue in worship to the Lord daily. Daily? Does that mean we need to come to this building every day to worship the Lord? No, it means that we need to set aside time every day to spend with the Lord in solemn and uninterrupted dedication. This time could be spent in prayer, or reading your Bible, or a combination of both. How else are we to know who God is? I know how difficult it can be to dedicate 15-30 minutes of your day to prayer and reading the Bible, but that is what God wants us to do. To put this in perspective, there are 1,440 minutes in a day. Is taking 15-30 of those 1,440 minutes asking too much to dedicate to the one who gave you life? I don’t think so because this is how we continue to be in gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God.
I do have a couple of thoughts in how to accomplish this. If you wait until the end of the day, you’re not going to spend the time in uninterrupted dedication. Your mind is wandering on the events of the day, what you have to do tomorrow, and is just plain tired. If you are like me, you will say something like, “I’m too tired today. I’ll double up tomorrow to make it up.” But how many tomorrows will come and go before you catch up? If you say, “I’ll do my dedications at my lunch break,” it probably won’t be uninterrupted time because you will probably be looking at your watch every few minutes to make sure you are late coming back. My suggestion is this, get up a few minutes earlier in the morning. I know that’s hard to do, but wake up early and spend your dedication time then. This is the time of day that you have the fewest demands on your time and the fewest interruptions.
What about Sundays? If I am spending my time daily in dedications, and I can do this in my own home, do I really need to get up on Sunday mornings and come here? Absolutely. And it’s not just because I want to see the pews filled. It is because of what the middle of our passage this morning tells us; “praising God and having favor with all the people.” A church founded after Jesus will consist of a group of believers who will come together in worship, and to build faith with fellow believers. This means fellowship. Jump back a couple of verses. Acts 2:41 and 42 says, “So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” They devoted themselves to the teachings and to fellowship. They went to where the teaching and prayer was located; and where other believers were so they could be built up. Seven days without prayer and fellowship makes one weak. That is [spell out] W E A K. We can become easy targets because we have not been spiritually fed and recharged by the fellowship of believers. That is why we must gather with fellow believers so that we may share the fruits of the Spirit and feed one and other.
So, what about this building? We call this building “church.” So on Sunday mornings, we get up to go to church. But is this building actually the church? Jesus define the church in Matthew 18:20 as, “where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.” The church is the people, so we are the church. When the Lord instituted the church, He meant for us to gather to worship and learn about Him. Fellowship is essential for this to happen. See, each one of us is another part of the body of Christ, and if one part of the body is not running at 100%, or is not present, then the rest of the body suffers as well. Have you ever seen those collars that they put on people’s necks to stabilize them after a car accident? Imagine trying to turn your head with that brace on, or without a neck at all. The path you are headed on is straight in front of you, but you want to check and make sure that there aren’t any cars coming. It’s impossible to look without a neck unless the whole body turns, which means that it has turned from the path that it was on to another path that may lead to danger. That is why we are to lift one and other up, not tear each other down. In my devotions, I have been reading through the book of I Corinthians, and Paul speaks of the body in I Corinthians 12:12-27.
For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. If they were all one member, where would the body be? But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it.
We must all function together, moving in the same direction; building each other up. Being in fellowship with each other is the only means by which the body can grow; individually and as a whole.
Speaking of fellowship, just for a second, lets look at the nature of our workplaces where some can have genuine fellowship, and others can put to shame their Christianity; where to some, we end up being the hypocrites that give Christ a bad name. Now I am just as guilty, so don’t think that I am talking about you alone. We all have lost our witness at some time. Philippians chapter 1 and verses 19 and 20 says,
For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
It does not mean that we are to be belligerent or rude, but we are to be bold even in the face of persecution. “But I can’t talk about God at work…but I can swear and drink and do the drugs that are around me because, well, that’s the kind of people I work with.” We need to stand up for the Bible, even if that means that it isn’t politically correct. This is when we need to be bold and stick up for that which God has told us to stand firm; that is Jesus Christ.
I go to school with a person that stood for what she believed in God, and lost her job. But God took care of her and gave her a better job where she now has the privilege of serving with a fellowship of believers at a very Christian company. God will take care of us. He did not say that we won’t suffer persecution, but He does say that He will take care us when we are suffering persecution for His namesake.
How does this relate to the church? By your actions each and every day, unbelievers will judge Christ. If you fall short, then proclaim God to that unbeliever, they have already judged that Jesus must not be all that we claim, because look at our actions. We need to live a Christ like life, which doesn’t mean that we will never fall short, but we need to truly exemplify Christ in our actions. Randy Alcorn says this in one of his books, “People had only to look at Jesus to see what God is like. People today should only have to look at us to see what Jesus is like. For better or worse, they’ll draw conclusions about Christ from what they see in us. A grace-starved, truth-starved world needs Jesus, full of grace and truth. So what does this hungry world see when it looks at us?” If they look to us and find genuine faith, they will come in the doors to find out what you and I have found in Christ.
When we began this morning, one of the passages I read was Acts 1:8, which is the key to the entire Book of Acts. This gives us the guide to how to bring people into fellowship and make First Baptist Church God’s church. Acts 1:8 says, “but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” This means we must have total participation by all who have the Spirit. And you know what? The day you said, “Jesus I need you,” the Spirit came and has dwelled in you ever since, so this means that you and I need to participate in evangelism. We need to get out there and speak to everyone. We are told that they were to start where they lived, Jerusalem; then to enlarge the borders to all of Judea. They were not to neglect the enemy and were to get out their and preach the Gospel to Samaria, their despised enemy. Lastly, they were to extend out to the uttermost ends of the earth; that means everywhere. So this is what it means to us. We are to start in Kingston, then move to other areas of this county. We can even make an impact on this state, and through the Cooperative Program, the missions program, we can fulfill the last part of getting God’s Word to the entire world. We are not just to win them, dip them, and drop them. We are to win them, dip them, and disciple them. Now that’s Christ’s church.
Looking back to the last part of our passage in Acts chapter 2 and verse 47, it says; “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.” If we are doing what the Lord wants us to do, people will come and they will come to know Christ. This means that we need to make sure that when we meet together in fellowship on Sunday mornings, we need to come together in dedication to the Lord. We need to go out of this building and preach the Gospel to those around us in our actions and in our words. Why did I come out here today? I came here to preach and have fellowship. We’ve talked about fellowship, so what does preach mean? Let’s take the word apart. [EXAMPLE] You preach. Take away the “p” to reach. Take away the “pr” to each. So we preach to reach each. Say it with me. “You preach to reach each.” And each one of us can do it. Each one of us can reach someone that no one else can and can bring them into fellowship.
If Jesus was sitting right here in the front pew and looking at our church as it is today, would He be satisfied that this church is His church? If not, what can we be doing to mold it into His church? Are we spreading God’s Word to those we come in contact with? Have we invited them to church? If not, why not? The biggest reason people don't come to church is because they have never been invited. It is time that we start inviting them to come. Let's not let our church be a slowly dying church, let's bring it to life. So what are your ideas? What do you think it would take to turn our little church here into a Jesus led, Jesus teaching, and seed planting church?
Now I’m going to hand out a piece of paper to everyone here and do something a little different. If you wouldn’t mind, write down what you think needs to be done to get our church moving towards being Christ’s church. Picture Jesus sitting in the front pew. What do you think He would say? Write down your thoughts, and before you leave today, just place it up here on the pulpit. You don’t even need to put your name on it. Let’s take a couple of minutes right now to write some ideas.
Revelation 22:16-17 says, “’I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.’ And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes [pause] take the water of life without cost.” (Revelation 22:16-17)
As Mark is coming up to lead us in a song of invitation, I want to leave you with this final thought. The free gift of salvation is open to anyone who will reach for Jesus, because His hand is out reaching for you already. This means that each and every person in the world has access to God. Each and every person needs to hear God’s Word. And with the power of the Holy Spirit working through the church, each and every person can be reached; beginning right here in Kingston. If you have not yet come to Jesus to have a personal relationship with Him, I invite you to come. If you have not joined this fellowship of believers, a group of people that have come together to be dedicated soul winners for Christ, I encourage you to come. If you have not followed your faith in baptism, I encourage you to come. “Let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.” Come.
 Alcorn, Randy. The Grace and Truth Paradox Sisters: Multnomah Publishers. 2003, 14.